Morning Standup - 1 done right. 1 done awfully wrong.

I want to discuss two morning stand up formats I was part of. One made me feel like everyone NEEDS to have a morning stand up, but the other was one of the reasons I quit after 3 weeks. So I decided to write about my experience.

Out of respect for privacy I will not be using the companies’ real names. Let’s call them companyA and companyB.

CompanyA is an iOS software-house, with around 80 people working there divided in different teams. 3 product teams (iOS engineers + designer + product manager), an ASO team, a PUA team, a people’s operation team, a marketing team, a software tools team, a data science team and an infrastructure team.

CompanyB is a medium size consulting company. The project we were put on was for a bank and their new payment app. We were 4 teams. An iOS engineering team, an Android engineering team, a backend team, and a maintenance team (I still have no idea what that team is, or does).

The one done right

The stand up was at 9:00 AM sharp to the second (Working hours in Italy are from 9:00 AM to 18:00 PM). Each day, a team had not more than 10 mins to present what they were working on since the last standup (that’s 1–2 weeks depending on the team) and to allow questions, if any. The presenter had to prepare a non mandatory slideshow (most did tho) focusing on main points, elaborate them, allow questions and at 9:10 AM tops, everyone was back at their desk working. Each team then had its own way to manage in-team daily updates. My team, one of the product teams, tried different approaches, none were optimal. My personal favorite was the end of day slack message explaining what was done, and if something particularly was difficult to resolve.

This approach guaranteed a general overview of what teams are doing, so colleagues understood what that particular team is working on, without investing more than 10 mins per day. And left the liberty to teams to decide what suits them better in terms of daily alignment.

The one done wrong, oh so awfully wrong

The standup was at 9:30 AM, and that’s the first fuck up. Having a stand up 30 mins after starting working hours is not a good idea. It will push people to arrive late-ish, then waste 10–15 mins waiting for 9:30 AM. Even those who actually start working at 9:00 AM, find themselves not so productive because you can’t get into your zone knowing that you will be interrupted. So you are left doing not so important tasks and being non productive most of the time.

Did I say 9:30 AM? I meant 9:32, 9:34, 9:31, depending on when people actually showed up, and then you have to go call X because he did not show up etc..

The stand up was every member of every team talking about what they did the day before and what they plan on doing the current day. THIS IS A BAD IDEA for several reasons:

  • I don’t care about what someone from the android team is working on everyday or what they did yesterday. If anything, a single person should speak per team and say what the team was able to do the day before.

  • Some are shy. A girl for 14 days straight said: “I am working on plastic card”. You don’t understand what she means? Well neither did I. All I knew from that was that she’s slow as hell or had no idea what she's doing.

  • People got bored and spent time on their phones - Yeah, seriously.

  • You leave the room with nothing to gain and around 20 mins lost.

Note that I used invested in the first example, but lost in this one. Just like most things in life, a morning stand up can be useful or a waste of time depending on how you manage it. Choose wisely.